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Spurs Still +140 Underdogs to Nuggets after Earning a Split in Denver

Nikola Jokic driving the lane
Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets are still favored to beat the Spurs in the NBA playoffs despite not having won a game at San Antonio in over seven years. Photo by Keith Allison (flickr) [CC License]
  • The Nuggets and Spurs are tied 1-1 in their first-round playoff series
  • Denver hasn’t won a game in San Antonio since 2012
  • Sportsbooks still favor the Nuggets to win the series

The Denver Nuggets head to San Antonio even with the Spurs in their best-of-seven first-round playoff series. However, history suggests that the Nuggets might already be behind the eight ball.

By losing Game 1, 101-96, the Nuggets surrendered home-court advantage to San Antonio. Even though they rallied to win Game 2 (114-105), Denver must win a game at San Antonio to win the series. The Nuggets haven’t done that in more than seven years.

Despite this reality, sportsbooks still list Denver as the favorite to win the series.

Spurs vs Nuggets: Playoff Series Price

Team Odds to Win Series
San Antonio Spurs +140
Denver Nuggets -160

*Odds taken on 04/17/19

The Spurs are 5-1 all-time in playoff series against the Nuggets. They’ve won four straight first-round series against Denver dating back to 1989-90. Denver’s lone win over San Antonio was in a 1984-85 opening-round best-of-five series.

Murray Spurs Denver Rally

San Antonio led for much of Game 2, and carried an 82-75 advantage into the fourth quarter. That’s when Nuggets guard Jamal Murray took over. He scored 21 of his 24 points in the final 12 minutes of play.

Even though Murray was throwing up bricks for most of the game, Denver coach Mike Malone stayed with his man, and it paid dividends.

Murray is one of the keys to this series. When he’s on, Denver is a different team. The Nuggets were 20-8 when he scored 20 or more points (71.4 winning percentage). They were just 34-20 when he didn’t (62.9 winning percentage).

Game 2 was a microcosm of what Murray is all about. He’s a mercurial player. During the regular season, Murray was a +14.9 in Denver’s victories and -15.7 in the Nuggets’ losses. At home, he’s +11.9; on the road, he is -3.1.

Nuggets Need to Rethink Possible

Rethink possible. That was AT&T’s corporate slogan the last time Denver won a game at San Antonio’s AT&T Center.

It was March 12, 2012. Ty Lawson scored 22 points and the Nuggets beat the Spurs 99-94.

Since that night, Denver has lost 13 in a row at San Antonio. The average margin of defeat is 13.69 points. Since 2010, the Nuggets are 1-16 on the road against the Spurs. In postseason play, Denver is 3-11 at San Antonio.

Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope, though. In their last game in San Antonio, the Nuggets lost 104-103. That’s the closest Denver has come to winning a game at San Antonio since a 100-99 setback in 2013.

Experience Favors the Spurs

Denver is in the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and the Nuggets haven’t won a playoff series since 2009. The Spurs are in the playoffs for the 22nd year in a row and have won 13 series and an NBA title since 2009. Yes, many of the faces are new, but don’t underestimate the importance of Gregg Popovich (167-110 career playoff record).

That experience quotient is a huge X-factor for the Spurs that Denver must quickly quell. The Nuggets likely need to take either Game 3 or 4 at San Antonio to win this series. If they allow the Spurs to gain a 3-1 lead, it’s over.

At +140, there’s solid value on the Spurs.

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